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Re-Imagining Ireland

Re-Imagining Ireland
Festival will transform Charlottesville into emerald isle with four days of music, theater, film and discussion

Mary McAleese, president of Ireland, will give the keynote address of the opening session of the conference.
Mary McAleese, president of Ireland, will give the keynote address of the opening session of the conference.

Staff Report

Charlottesville and U.Va. will link arms with the Irish during a historic international conference and festival, “Re-Imagining Ireland,” to be held May 7-10.

Billed as a “town meeting of Ireland out of Ireland,” the unique event will feature more than 100 Irish politicians, citizen activists, journalists, writers, artists, scholars and musicians in discussions about Ireland’s storied past, its present challenges and future promise. Related cultural activities will include major music, theater, film, literary and art presentations and U.S. premieres at locations around the University and city.

Irish President Mary McAleese will present the keynote address at the opening session.

“Re-Imagining Ireland” has been planned for two years as a way for Irish and Americans to reflect on and appreciate Irish culture, “both in itself and in relation to America and other parts of the world,” said project director Andrew Higgins Wyndham of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, chief sponsor of the event.

The conference schedule includes 31 thematically organized panel sessions and special activities. On the roster are two major concerts, an award-winning play, a new Irish feature film and series of short films, readings by major Irish poets, and an exhibition of contemporary Irish art. Among other main sponsors are the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Irish Cultural Relations Committee.

The conference is open to the public and can accommodate 350 registered guests for the full program and larger audiences for cultural events. Most discussion panels are free, but advance registration is required. Individual tickets are available for the performance events and should be purchased in advance (see box below for details).

Among the literary figures participating will be novelists Roddy Doyle and Frank McCourt, and noted Irish journalists Fintan O’Toole, Susan McKay, David McKittrick and Eamonn McCann.

Festival’s Cultural Highlights

The Green Fields of America
Led by folklorist Mick Moloney, the Green Fields of America includes some of Irish America’s finest musicians and dancers. The group has played at Carnegie Hall, Wolf Trap, the Smithsonian Institution, the Milwaukee Irish Fest and the U.S. National Folk Festival.

De Dannan
One of the most famous and accomplished groups of traditional music, De Dannan is led by the fiery, virtuoso fiddle playing of Frankie Gavin. Recognized as one of the world’s fiddle and violin masters, Gavin is responsible for much of the style and musical arrangements of the group.

Cherish the Ladies
Led by Joannie Madden, this six-woman Irish-American band produces music based on traditional Irish dance tunes and is accompanied by step dancing. The group has recorded seven albums, performed widely on radio and television in the United States and Europe, and shared the stage with James Taylor, Joan Baez, Emmy Lou Harris, The Chieftains and dozens of symphony orchestras.

The award-winning play by Michael West is directed by American expatriate Annie Ryan, with music by Vincent Doherty. The one-man show features actor Andrew Bennett, narrator of the film “Angela’s Ashes,” who won accolades in the role at the 2001 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A panel discussion, sponsored by U.Va.’s Forum for Contemporary Thought, with playwright West and actor Bennett will follow performances.

Short film screenings
Each day at the festival, the Cork International Film Festival will present a 75-minute program of short films from Ireland and Northern Ireland — films connected to the conference themes. Additionally, the Irish Film Board will present a new Irish feature film on May 8. The complete schedule of screenings is posted on the conference Web site.

The award-winning band, Solas, performs May 10.
The award-winning band, Solas, performs May 10.

Described in the Irish Echo as “one of the most exciting Irish bands anywhere in the world,” Solas has won many awards. The group is led by Seamus Egan, who has won All-Ireland championships on four different instruments. The band has appeared on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” NPR’s “Morning Edition,” “Mountain Stage” and many others.

Musical Narratives
Throughout the festival, noted Irish musicians and storytellers will present informal narratives with music, focusing on how national identities are imagined and created. Performers include fiddler Martin Hayes, banjoist Mick Maloney, singer-songwriter Andy Irvine, folk expert Len Graham, storyteller John Campbell, musician Bruce Molsky and folksinger Tommy Sands.

Contemporary Irish art
Organized in cooperation with the Irish Museum of Modern Art, this show will present cutting-edge, artistically and politically challenging works drawn primarily from the museum’s collection in Dublin. The exhibition is at the U.Va. Art Museum through June 8. The U.Va. Forum for Contemporary Thought will sponsor a panel focused on the exhibition, featuring Dublin City Arts Center director Declan McGonagle and Irish Museum of Modern Art director of collections Catherine Marshall.

Leabhar Mòr Na Gaeilge — The Great Book of Gaelic North American Preview
Four years in the making, the Great Book of Gaelic — or Leabhar Mòr na Gaeilge — is an extraordinary collaboration that has been dubbed a 21st century Book of Kells. Combining the work of 100 contemporary Scottish and Irish artists, poets, calligraphers and typographers, the project brings together 15 centuries of Scottish and Irish culture, celebrating mythologies, traditions and a language that bind them together. One hundred artists were asked to respond to 100 poems chosen and written by today’s top Gaelic poets. Twenty of 100 pages and panels will be presented in the U.Va. Rotunda Dome Room through May 16.

Register for events:

Most discussion panels are free, but advance registration is required. For details or to register, go to: www.re-imagining-ireland.org or call 924-9721.


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